Support for Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison

Canadian feminist scholars are joining forces to try to prevent the closure of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Here’s a note from a philosophy student and student leader there explaining the situation and requesting help:

Dear all,

I am writing to inform you of an urgent need for support of Mount Allison University’s Women and Gender Studies program. Yesterday our university announced that they were effectively cutting the program by removing its funding for next year, refusing to offer any core WGST courses, and refusing to let students sign up for our WGST minor. Students were not consulted about the cut, and the university failed to release a public statement, leaving the announcement up to the program’s Acting Director. Though our university only offers students the option to minor in WGST at the moment, the program has tripled in size over the past few years, with long waitlists for introductory classes. It is also worth noting that the founder, champion, and department head of the program sadly passed away less than two months ago.

Last year, CBC reported that Mount Allison has the highest sexual assault rate of New Brunswick universities, and had the second highest rate among Canadian universities and colleges over a five-year period. Our university president was awarded the Order of Canada this year. Clearly, there is a very real and immediate need for Women and Gender Studies programs.

We believe that this administrative action speaks to the university’s disregard for learning from, listening to, and supporting marginalized voices. As I’m sure you know, Women and Gender Studies teaches essential critical thinking skills, which are needed now more than ever in light of pervasive rape culture across university campuses, the stronghold of neoliberal and corporate forces over universities, eroding collegial governance, and continued disparities and inequities experienced by women and other marginalized groups. We also worry that this move opens the door to further discrimination – particularly topical given our students’ ongoing push for the Indigenization of Mount Allison.

We urge you to publicly and vocally condemn Mount Allison’s decision. There are many ways in which you may do so.

-If you send me a public statement on behalf of your department, I will collect, publish, and disseminate these through our Women and Gender Studies Student Society or program faculty.

-You can sign and circulate this petition:

-You can tweet your support to @MTA_WGSTsociety or use the hashtag #WGSTcuts.

-You can write a letter to one of our university’s senior administrators. Their e-mails have been included below.

Dr Campbell (University President):
Dean VanderLeest (Dean of Arts):
Dr Grant (Provost & Vice-President, Academic & Research):
Mr Inglis (Vice-President, Finance and Administration):

If you have further comments or questions, please feel free to get in touch with me. You may also contact Katharyn Rose Stevenson, our Women and Gender Studies Student Society President at or Dr Lisa Dawn Hamilton, Acting Program Director, at

Many thanks and in solidarity,

Caroline Kovesi

Student of sociology and philosophy

Mount Allison ’17


Spare Rib now available online

Well, this is cool: JISC’s journal archives now include Spare Rib, and selected highlights from Spare Rib are introduced at a British Library page. From the British Library page:

Spare Rib was an active part of the emerging women’s liberation movement in the late 20th century. Running from 1972 – 93, this now iconic magazine challenged the stereotyping and exploitation of women, while supporting collective, realistic solutions to the hurdles women faced. Spare Rib became the debating chamber of feminism in the UK, and it now provides a valuable insight into the lives of women in this period.

TransAdvocate Interview with Judith Butler on Gender Identity

The TransAdvocate recently posted an interview with Judith Butler on gender and gender identity, specifically surrounding trans* issues. There are a lot of quotable gems in there, so I encourage you to check it out!


“We [all] form ourselves within the vocabularies that we did not choose”


“No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives.”


“My sense is that we may not need the language of innateness or genetics to understand that we are all ethically bound to recognize another person’s declared or enacted sense of sex and/or gender. We do not have to agree upon the “origins” of that sense of self to agree that it is ethically obligatory to support and recognize sexed and gendered modes of being that are crucial to a person’s well-being.”


“Sometimes there are ways to minimize the importance of gender in life, or to confuse gender categories so that they no longer have descriptive power. But other times gender can be very important to us, and some people really love the gender that they have claimed for themselves. If gender is eradicated, so too is an important domain of pleasure for many people. And others have a strong sense of self bound up with their genders, so to get rid of gender would be to shatter their self-hood. I think we have to accept a wide variety of positions on gender. Some want to be gender-free, but others want to be free really to be a gender that is crucial to who they are.”

In an alternate reality, Tolkien would be a woman.

The Sci-Fi blog io9 posted yesterday about a fantasy writer who could well have become as famous and influential as Tolkien – had she been a man. Naomi Mitchison, author of The Corn King, The Spring Queen and Travel Light, was a friend of Tolkien’s, and one of the proof readers for  The Lord of the Rings. But her own books have been neglected and forgotten.

Amal El-Mohtar reviews Travel Light, the story of a little orphan girl who is brought up by bears, then dragons, and abandons her dragon lifestyle of hoarding to hit the road, says she fell from a great height when she discovered the book, as an adult, and realised that she could have been reading it alongside her childhood favourite, The Hobbit.

That Mitchison’s life and works should have been so unfairly relegated to secret history drove home my feeling of books as points of divergence to alternate timelines; that having read The Hobbit rather than Travel Light at that fragile, formative moment of being a child in Lebanon standing at a crossroads of languages, religions and literary traditions nudged me into a different life. Who might I have been if I had met Halla Bearsbairn before Bilbo Baggins? How different might my attitude toward dragons have been if I’d met Uggi before Smaug? How different would the spiritual landscapes of fantasy and science fiction be if they had accepted as antecedents works that showed a corrupt Byzantine Christianity and sympathy toward Islam?

But, most crucially for me, I wonder: Where might I have gone if, instead of a middle-aged Hobbit enamored of his pantry, I had embraced a girl who lost three homes before choosing the open road?

After a cursory inquiry on Facebook, it turns out that a handful of feminist fantasy and scifi geeks I know have heard of the author, but none have read her books.

Her Wikipedia entry says that as well as being a prolific writer, Mitchison was an active socialist and feminist fighting for the rights to birth control and abortion.

Travel Light is available on the US Amazon site, and some of the other novels, a memoir, and a biography are available on the UK site.


Interview with Silvia Federici

Interesting interview with Silvia Federici who was in London at the end of last year. Long, but well worth the read.

Silvia Federici is a scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist tradition. She is a professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor. She worked as a teacher in Nigeria for many years, is also the co-founder of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, and is a member of the Midnight Notes Collective.

More from wikipedia.

Christina Hoff Somers on the Boys in the Back.

In fact, Dr. Somers is the step-mother of a colleague of mine, and so I won’t dwell on the possible motives for her friendly voice for feminism in today’s NY Times. It would be very mean to suggest she has her eye on sales of the book she is about to reissue. (That book is called The War Against boys.) So let me just note that she relays some interesting ideas about why boys do less well in school than girls, as it seems. She does seem to think its due to universally shared male characteristics, like being feckless and lazy.

As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities. Concerns about boys arose during a time of tech bubble prosperity; now, more than a decade later, there are major policy reasons — besides the stale “culture wars” of the 1990s — to focus on boys’ schooling.

We addressed the research behind the idea that boys and girls have brains fundamentally different in the way Somers described. Cordelia Fine, who will be speaking at the Central APA in a few weeks, has recently made the idea even more implausible.

Still, we can probably all get behind her closing sentence: The rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men.

Feminism Fizzles !?!

It’s the CHE again. The author, Rachel Shteir, maintains that Friedan’s book was wonderful, energizing, liberating, etc, but few people read it today, and contemporary stuff is uninspired and narcissistic.

A taste of now and then:

Friedan wades into women’s lives, painting a picture of how myriad forces created the feminine mystique. It is as though she is reworking one of the great reform classics of the early 20th century, like The Pit or The Jungle. You believe completely in the vortex sucking women under: In the first few pages, the reader is swept into birthrates, education, India, kitchen design, and diets.

Compared with Friedan’s 1963 book, the new W(orks)onW(women) also fall short as works of writing. They seem to either chirp or thunder rather than evoke, as Friedan does. They do not offer her sweeping take on women and society, and not only do they reject psychology, but they seem not to understand it. Slaughter is outraged when some female assistant professors asked her to stop talking about her children in public, telling her that it detracted from her “gravitas.” She reflects: “It is interesting that parenthood and gravitas don’t go together.” She goes on to insist that her colleagues add her children to her bio when they introduce her.

The article seems to me to be a mishmash of ideas. She writes as though a revolutionary book must be followed by revolutionary books, and does not seeem to realize that the next step will likly be the details, with lots of mistakes, etc. And there is no mention of vibrant feminism outside the US borders.

I think the article is available to all.

How will you celebrate the jubilee? Feminism matters

That is, Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee?

In fact the commission that plans things has come up with an intriguing idea: a kind of giant commonwealth diary of those 60 years. You can pick any day and write about what interesting or significant things happened on that day. The only restriction is that it is about some commonwealth things.

And you can also get an app for viewing the results.

So let’s go and mark the fact that women and feminism have been extremely important over the last 60 years.
Here’s the site:

Alternatively, you can write angry letters to the BBC for their list of the New Elizabethans, those UK people who have significantly affected the history in those 60 years. Does (approximately) 20% women seem right to you? No women authors, despite Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize. As I remember, no women visual artists, even though Tracy Emin and Fiona Rae, our contemporaries, are the only women to be professors at the Royal Academy since its founding 350+ years ago.

Perhaps people compiling the list did not keep sufficiently in mind that making very significant changes in the futures possible for women is indeed changing history. Or perhaps this is unfair. You can hear the head of the panel that selected the new Elizabethans, Lord Hall, discuss the process.

One could go on. Sigh.

Looking for texts by women in early modern europe?

Christine de Pisan

How about close to 200 of them? 

The series, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe, first from the University of Chicago Press and, later, the University of Toronto Press, has published 194 texts or collections, the vast majority of which are by women.  Further, many, and perhaps all, are available as e-texts on for under $12.

You can find the series Introduction and Bibliography on links from this page.

The Introduction is profoundly disturbing.  It describes the attitudes toward women from the days of Aristotle onwards through the period of the series.  This is not a story of any progression.  Nonetheless, it does explain why so much of women’s writing at this time is devoted to arguing for women’s right to an education and her equality more generally.

The Orlando Project: an addition

What is the Orlando Project?

Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present is a highly dynamic and rich resource for researchers, students, and readers with an interest in literature, women’s writing, or cultural history more generally. With about five and a half million words of text, it is full of factual, critical, and interpreted material. This first release of Orlando includes biographical and writing career entries on over a thousand writers, more than eight hundred and fifty of them British women. It also includes selected non-British or international women writers, and British and international men, whose writing was an important, sometimes a shaping, element in a particular writing climate. Orlando also includes more than thirty thousand dated items representing events and processes (in the accounts of these writers, but also in the areas of history, science, medicine, economics, the law, and other contexts). In all of these categories, Orlando will grow over time, as it is incrementally enlarged by scheduled updates.

It is a massive project and we can get free access for March, 2012. Go here to find out how.

Looking for her email address, I came across a video clip of some very brief remarks by one of the Orlando project editors. It is just pleasant to watch, I think: